Is Your Cat So Sweet, They Need Insulin?

Let’s Talk Diabetes In Cats


Diabetes can look like several other common cat diseases including hyperthyroid and kidney disease — the main signs to look for are increased hunger, thirst and urination. Often, diabetics will be overweight and suddenly lose a large portion of their body weight over a short period of time. Sometimes, the signs are less obvious and are caught on routine wellness testing.

A diagnosis is made through bloodwork and a urinalysis. Diabetes mellitus literally translates to “sweet water,” meaning a hallmark of diabetes is sugar in the urine.

So, you have a diagnosis — what next?

  • Insulin: the best option on the market for cats is the human insulin glargine (lantus).

  • Food: diet should consist mainly of wet food and ideally a diabetic-friendly prescription food. There are several good options out there, including from Purina and Hills.

  • Blood glucose curves: we used to have to rely on in-hospital serial curves, where a blood sample was taken every two hours throughout the day. Now, we use the Libre Freestyle Sensors, which have been revolutionary in pet medicine, allowing us to have pet parents perform curves at home with a far less invasive approach and less stress to your pet!

But the true key to managing a diabetic?

Consistency. This is the true secret to navigating through from diagnosis to stable disease (and even remission in some cases). Diabetics crave routine and are more accurate than most clocks in a lot of ways! Insulin should be given as close to 12 hours apart as possible and should be given at the same time every day. Cats do not need to be fed at any particular time like dogs do; most do very well with a “free-feeding” lifestyle. However, calories should be managed, and carbohydrates reduced (canned food is best).

OK, but my cat is always hungry! How do we manage its weight?

Many diabetics struggle with weight. Once their blood sugar levels stabilize, they tend to gain weight easily. Managing the extra pounds can be crucial to successful glucose control; obesity in cats leads to insulin resistance over time and can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Here are some helpful hints to keeping those pounds down:

  • Utilize feeder toys — this encourages natural hunting behaviors and slows down speed eaters, increasing satisfaction with smaller meals.

  • Add water to food or give more canned diet — this adds bulk with less calorie density than most dry foods.

  • Laser pointers, wand toys and catnip mice are old favorites to encourage playing.

  • Ask your veterinary hospital for a calorie plan. This way, you know exactly how much to feed in a day.

The main takeaways

A new diabetic can be daunting — the first three to six months involve many insulin adjustments, glucose curves, and check-ins with your veterinary team. The important thing to remember is that this disease can be managed through consistency, collaboration and a little TLC!

VCA Calvert Veterinary Center loves your sugar-blooded fur kids, and the staff is ready to help you navigate all the trials and triumphs that come along with this process. If you have questions or are concerned your cat may have diabetes, contact your local veterinarian. VCA Calvert Veterinary Center has been serving the greater Pasadena community for over 17 years. The staff members are “your other family doctor.” To make an appointment, call 410-360-PAWS.


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